EAST ALTON • Twice in two months, the same 2-year-old boy was found wandering on the same busy, four-lane road in East Alton, wearing only a soiled diaper.
When a man stopped to help the child Friday in the intersection of Airline Drive and North 9th Street, the toddler pointed to a nearby home and said, "Mommy." The boy told the same thing to a sheriff's deputy who found him darting across that intersection Sept. 2.
The boy was unharmed, but sheriff's officials have now locked up both parents. The boy and his younger brother are in the custody of a state child service agency.
"It's a serious, serious situation," said Capt. T. Mike Dixon of the Madison County Sheriff's Department.
A concerned citizen who stopped to help the boy at about 8 a.m. Friday called police. Deputies went to the home the child had pointed to, within 300 feet of the intersection, and found the boy's father, Nathan M. Woods, sleeping. Woods told police he thought the child's mother had the boy.
The couple's 1-year-old son was in the home, unharmed. Police say the home, on Fern Lane in unincorporated Madison County, was in bad shape and smelled of urine.
Woods, 28, was arrested on two misdemeanor charges of child endangerment. He was taken to the Madison County Jail, where his bail is $300.
As police were arresting Woods, officers got a report of a drunken driver. The caller described the vehicle, which soon pulled into the driveway of the home on Fern Lane. The driver, police say, was the boy's mother, Kristal J. Rushing, 25.
Police said she was drunk and under the influence of marijuana. They found pot and drug paraphernalia in her vehicle. Rushing was charged Monday with a felony, driving under the influence while revoked or suspended. Her bail is $15,000.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took both children into protective custody.
"They have been placed in a loving home," said Dave Clarkin, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. "We have opened an investigation into an allegation of neglect, which is pending."
The same state agency got involved on Sept. 2 after a deputy spotted the 2-year-old running across the same intersection. The boy was spotted wearing only a diaper and running through the intersection at about 7 a.m. that day, a Sunday, Dixon said.
"It's a busy, four-lane roadway, an east-west intersection and at that hour you can have sun in your eyes, so it's very dangerous."
The mother told police she had been out looking for her son, but police aren't sure how long the boy had been missing. She didn't notify police he was gone. The father wasn't involved in that case. Police found the 1-year-old boy back at the house, alone.
In that case, Rushing was charged with two counts of child endangerment and marijuana possession.
The Department of Children and Family Services substantiated a neglect allegation in that incident. The mother kept custody of the children, however, and the department provided her with what's called "intact family services." That keeps kids with their families while the parents receive help with the issues that resulted in the agency's involvement.